Augustus Snodbury, Master at St Birinus Middle School, sighed deeply at the
very thought of the next round of staff appraisals.
Unlucky in love? teased Nigel Milford-Haven, setting his huge pile of exercise
books onto an already overloaded table. He was unaware of how near the
mark he had hit. He sank into a saggy armchair which had several burns and
questionable stains in the sun-faded chintz. For, aetiolated members of staff,
over the years, had hauled it near the bay window, in an attempt to derive
some vitamins from the sunshine which always seemed to radiate outside their
timetables. Indeed, some of the old timers walked with a curious curvature,
like plants gravitating towards the light.
Did you read that stuff about Shakespeare being a schoolmaster in Hampshire?
Nigel began. They say that he only had about 12 pupils, so his report writing
wouldn’t have taken him as long as ours, lucky s-
Snod cut him short in that time-honoured way that old dogs of the staffroom
have perfected over the centuries.
They? They? And who pray are these experts? It is alleged, Mr Milford-
Haven, merely alleged. No doubt someone is trying to fill in the
missing years. As if G Wilson Knight would not have uncovered some
Or Dover Wilson, he added, showing his age. He permitted himself a tight-
lipped smile, which he had perfected and which communicated his resistance
to the merest tincture of fantasy.
No, gullible was not an adjective to pin on Augustus Snodbury.
But Snod- I mean Gus, eh, Mr Snodbury, sir, stuttered Nigel, whose BA
paled against his better’s MA in the prospectus. Actually, it annoyed
him when he deferred like this. His results were 5% better than the old
crock’s, if you weighted certain subjects favourably and manipulated other
factors to do with value added and certain aptitude scores from prep
school projections, but he controlled his rambling thoughts and
continued, The exciting thing is that The Bard might have ridden through
Suttonford and may even have tutored the ancestors of some of our boys.
En cet cas, he didn’t transmit much in the way of genius to the descending
gene pool, remarked Snodbury, exhibiting his facility with Modern
Languages at the same time as expressing his cynicism which had been
fuelled by last week’s universally vapid responses to what he considered
a fairly straightforward prep.
Nigel privately concurred, but was somewhat stunned at Snod’s intemperate
and overt non-PC language. Should he comment on this feature in next week’s
inter-departmental appraisal? The old boy wasn’t long for the scholastic world,
when all was said and done, so maybe he should draw a veil over some issues.
However, enthused by the concept of The Swan of Tuonela (or was it The
Swan of Avon?) marking the aimless scribbles of a progenitor of -say-John
Boothroyd- Smythe, he picked up the querulous baton and ran with it.
Tea, gentlemen? The trolley with the wonky wheel was being parked against
the pigeon holes. They both eyed the same Custard Cream. It was a matter
of hierarchy. Nigel took the Bourbon instead.
As he crunched, his imagination soared with the sugar rush….